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Austen IvereighApril 13, 2010

The second part of Jason Berry's gruesomely compelling expose of the sordid life of Maciel Degollado (pictured), founder of the Legionaries of Christ, has been published by NCR (Part 1 is here). It contains more evidence of how Maciel suborned his opponents through lavish funds. What is sad is how close Maciel came to being stopped.

In the 1950s Cardinal Valerio Valeri, prefect for Congregation of Religious, suspended Maciel after receiving letters from a priest at the Legion seminary in Mexico City who had seen Maciel self-inject with drugs and groom boys. "Valeri suspended Maciel and arranged for Carmelite priests to assume control of the Legion house", reports Berry. But the Carmelites could get nothing from the boys, who admitted years later how, out of fear, they had lied to protect Maciel. Valeri did not publicize the suspension, and Maciel began raising money for the Our Lady of Guadelupe Basilica in Rome. In 1959, after the death of Pope Pius XII but before the election of John XXIII, Maciel was reinstated by Cardinal Clemente Micara, vicar of Rome in the interregnum, to whom Maciel had more than 10 years earlier given a huge sum of cash.

Micara, by then the vicar of Rome, signed an order reinstating Maciel — something for which, in the interregnum between popes, he had no authority to do. Canon law puts official duties in abeyance in the interim. What were Valeri and other officials who were offended by Maciel to do? Expend what capital they had with the new pontiff, challenging Micara over a druggy priest with a vice for boys but cash lines to build a basilica? Maciel was redeemed by an illegitimate order from a cardinal to whom he had given $10,000 13 years before, according to a priest with access to Legion files. Micara, who had blessed the cornerstone, wanted infrastructure. Maciel had the money.

Although Berry tells us much that we already knew from his previous investigations -- the women Maciel kept, their children whom he abused -- it is amazing to read how Maciel took two of those children to meet the Pope, in a high-wire gamble typical of those addicted to the adrenalin of the double life. 

In 1991, when Raúl was 10 and Norma 4, Maciel took them to the Vatican; they received Communion from Pope John Paul II .... Presenting his children to John Paul suggests a reckless cynicism in Maciel's behavior, gambling with his public image as a priest by showcasing the progeny of his private life, putting both of his lives on simultaneous display.

The key Vatican figure in protecting Maciel in the 1980s and 1990s was Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the all-powerful secretary of state under John Paul II and now Dean of the College of Cardinals. The bond between Sodano and Maciel was forged back in the Pinochet years in Chile, where Sodano was nuncio. It was Sodano who persuaded Cardinal Silva to allow the Legion into the country, against the objections from the bishops.

Back to Rome in 1989, Sodano, in preparing to become secretary of state, took English lessons at a Legion center in Dublin, Ireland. He vacationed at a Legion villa in Southern Italy. An honored guest at Legion dinners and banquets, Sodano became Maciel's biggest supporter .... Maciel hired Sodano's nephew, Andrea Sodano, as a building consultant. Pontificial Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum is the name of the complex. But Legionaries overseeing the project complained to Maciel that Andrea Sodano's work was late and poorly done; they were reluctant to pay his invoices. To them, Maciel yelled: "Pay him! You pay him!"

Reading of the powerful ties of money and family between the two men -- Sodano's nephew was employed by Maciel to build the Legion's university in Rome -- it is much easier now to see now what a struggle it must have been for Cardinal Ratzinger to force Maciel to resign in 2004.

Now that the Vatican-mandated investigation into the Legion is over, the report by the five "visitator" bishops will be on the Pope's desk by the end of April, reports Corriere della Sera, which speculates that a commissario -- a Vatican-appointed head -- will be put in charge of the Legion to clear up its mess, who is likely to be a cardinal.

Meanwhile, there is also an obvious cardinal whose head should roll: Sodano's. His resignation would be the best way of repudiating the sordid manner in which Maciel was protected in Rome for so many years.



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Theresa Maccarone
14 years 1 month ago
Both Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Stanislaw Dziswz, Archbishop of Krakow and former secretary to the late Pope John Paul II, should resign for the "good of the Church." Their actions have brought disgrace and shame to the holy office of Bishop. In the meantime, I will continue to offer up my rosaries for both men that they will convert their hearts to Jesus and to ask God to be merciful to both men.
John McCloskey
14 years 1 month ago
"Few die and none resign," Thomas Jefferson is said to have complained about John Adams' appointees to the federal judiciary. The Church has a similar problem. But there is a solution, if the pope really wants a solution.
There are rumors that there will almost certainly be a consistory later this year. If the pope wishes, he can make his points very emphatically. First, immediately elevate to Cardinals only those bishops who have been rare and exemplary in word and deed in leading the charge for reform, and who have escaped the usual insular church talk. Begin with Diarmuid Martin in Dublin and Thomas Collins in Toronto. And if he can't find courageous and outspoken bishops in the usual places, then make cardinals of bishops from small, obscure dioceses. This will wake up the power structure. 
And the second action is like it: make ten women cardinals. A cardinal is not necessarily an office that requires Holy Orders. There would need to be a simple dispensation from the rule that Cardinals are ordained bishops, but this may easily be done. So find ten women in a Church of over one billion members, ten women who are honest and true, educated and articulate and faithful, from all parts of the globe. 
Benedict has the chance now to do it. Does he have the courage? Or is all this talk of seriously addressing these issues just talk?
14 years 1 month ago
Fr John has good points.. Will we see action like that?" I say no.. nor will we see even  Sodano resign [see NCR Berry's report on sociopathic influence in the vatican] ..If Sodano does not resign  this week take it as a screaming sign nothing has registered in the Vatican...[petty gossip indeed!!] .  this lack of Sodano's resignation should cause both the lower clergy and laity to take more drastic action in order to leverage change in church governence. No one so far has suggested a reasonable action to start the needed leverage to change the governence,e. g.  the 'no funding Sunday' idea even it had an impossible  100% participation would reduce church funding 2%.. not even a blip.. Maybe we need to organize  Catholic laity prayer services/creed proclamations at gathering out side of Church venues.. with the ordained welcomed as observors not leaders. this may send a message. no more speeches, no more studies. no more books. The hierarchy has had 25 years to make good ;they have been dragged kicking toward this point and they are still kicking back .. A/B Martin was sent back to Ireland after being slapped down.. you could see it in his face. . .. [the Vatican this week suggests that perps be reported to civil authorities... this is their latest BIG concession.. ... nice huh] .
Carolyn Disco
14 years 1 month ago
After Sodano's pitiful, self-serving remarks at Easter, Benedict embraced him.
If Sodano remains in any office, or God help us is promoted to some cushy sinecure like Law, as a fig leaf of some kind, we have our answer from Benedict how much his words mean. Not much IMHO.
The whole thrust is to keep the Vatican above the fray, exempt from any responsibility for anything.
Women cardinals? Wonderful idea unless women like Mary Ann Glendon -  who taught at Maciel's university and was a major supporter of him, late US ambassador to the Vatican, and apologist of the first order - get the nod.
If Benedict were really serious, Donald Cozzens would be named. Not currently a bishop? So what.
Claire Mathieu
14 years 1 month ago
Actually, Ed, the suggestion is only that they be reported to civil authorities IF it is mandatory in that country's law. If not, then the Vatican does not require it.
Jim McCrea
14 years 1 month ago
I'll take Fr. John's great idea a wee bit farther?
In the next 2 consistories, only make cardinals from non-ordained women and men - and do not ordain them bishops.  Resurrect the idea of lay cardinals.
Put them ALL in charge of curial offices, including those overseeing priests, bishops, male & femal religious.
That's one way to break the mold.  Can't you just see how THAT would be dealt with once a non-ordained person was elected Pope?
John Raymer
14 years 1 month ago

Maybe that is what is meant by "Peter the Roman" in Malachy's list of popes. What you have described is a democratically elected Pope and a church of the people. The lay Cardinals would all have to be Romans themselves since only Romans can elect the Pope. (That is why all cardinals have titular churches in Rome - it makes them "Romans.") This is most interesting.

The Catholic Church is the last absolute monarchy in Europe. It is probably time for it to make the transition to democracy as well.
James Lindsay
14 years 1 month ago
The Prophesies of St. Malachy are given serious credence in the Vatican (whether they are true or merely self-fulfilling). This being the case, there will be no more legitimate conclaves as Peter the Roman (the next and final prophesy) is likely a rump anti-pope who will be elected in reaction to unification with Constantinople. This makes the office of Cardinal a meaningless honor. Being a national Primate may be the ticket to a Patriarchy in the future - so it is better to be A/B Wurl than Cardinal George. Sodano's office as Dean of the College of Cardinals is particularly meaningless, given the likely future of the Church.
Jim McCrea
14 years 1 month ago
Democracy, maybe.  But SOME form of representative government is well overdue.
This church has a long history of losing vast segments of its population because of improper actions and political support.
Support for Christianity and religion in general is weakening throughout the former realms of Christendom.  Rome is simply hastening the day when her churches become museums and St. Peter's is the fanciest mosque in the world.
John McGrath
14 years 1 month ago
It is now time for women cardinals. And some should be put in charge of important offices at the Vatican. Women cardinals and officials now!
John McGrath
14 years 1 month ago
The early church was republican in government, not operated as a barbarian medieval absolute monarchy. Local elections for bishops!
John McGrath
14 years 1 month ago
Why not make the elected heads of certain orders of nuns (including at least 3 in the US) cardinals?
Advice to Pope Benedict, which he no doubt will ignore: "Go, and sin no more."
Edward Palamar
12 years 8 months ago
Greetings in the Resurrected Christ!

Jesus Christ has raised me from the dead to the office of "Peter the Roman".  Both Jesus Christ and myself were conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Christ has deemed it proper that I should return to the living some 1,925 years later.  "Peter the Roman" is not about the death of America, but the guarantee that all souls shall be resurrected to eternal life.

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